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February 26, 2013

Seasonal Affective Disorder

by Faith Middleton

Winter typically brings a sluggish feeling and the desire to curl up by the fireplace and sleep while drinking hot beverages. However, how much of this can be attributed to the cold weather? Is this laziness commonplace, or is there something more worrisome going on?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that, when occurring in winter, is characterized by lethargy, weight gain and the desire to sleep more than normal amounts. It is often milder than clinical depression and can be cured without medication. In the summer months, S.A.D has symptoms such as irritability, weight loss and insomnia.

Approximately six percent of Americans, mostly in Northern climates, are affected by S.A.D. Eighty percent of affected people benefit from phototherapy, which is the use of lights that mimic the sun’s rays, which patients sit or stand under each day for thirty to ninety minutes. This method of therapy is effective because of the Vitamin D from the light, which is what those affected lack in the winter when sunlight is rare. An increase of the amount of Vitamin D ingested is also helpful in treating S.A.D.

Pam Geiger, one of Centennial’s Social Workers, recommends Vitamin D and exercise. “I would encourage exercise outdoors, particularly when it is sunny,” Mrs. Geiger said.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is especially an issue for modern Americans because of how little sunlight received in the winter months. In a world of convenience, it isn’t necessary to spend long periods of time outside. It is even less desired in cold weather, with fears of frostbite and hypothermia on the minds of people when they go out in the cold.

“More people have trouble with [Seasonal Affective Disorder] than they did forty years ago because we spend so much more time indoors,” Mrs. Geiger said.

In order to avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder one should exercise at least 30 minutes a day, eat fresh fruit with Vitamin D and go outside after a long day spent indoors.

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